Please Help My Kids on the Playground

Please help my kids on the playground when they ask.  They are only little for a short time. I want them to learn to trust the world around them.

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Please be nice to my kids at the playground. Help them when they ask, and give them a smile. Show them that people are good, dependable, and will go out of their way to be kind. Model helping others.

My kids are still learning, and they have come so far. I want them to have a foundation of security, trust, and connectedness before they face real challenges and disappointment.

I want my children to know how to ask for help, and that people will respond.

I want them to know that really, people care about them and want them to succeed. I don’t want them to think they are in it alone.

I ask you to do this not just for my kids, but for the world. Because if my kids have been shown kindness and compassion, that’s what they will offer too.

So if they ask for a boost, or a push on the swing, I ask you to grant it. Tell them your name and something about yourself. They like meeting new people and learning about their life.

When my kids ask for help, it does not mean that they are not learning.  They are always leaarning.  It just may be that they are learning something that you cannot see- something different than you want them to. I trust that my kids know what they need.  I believe that they understand this more when I, and you, listen to them.  Letting them know that they have been heard allows them to know that their words have affect, that they matter.  So if my kids ask, I encourage you to help them.

If I am sitting on the bench texting, don’t be annoyed. Know that it may have been a long day, and this is keeping me sane. I will be grateful that for the moment I have a village.

If I stand still as I watch you help my kid, know that I am happy. Not because it gets me out of work, but because you have just given one of my children a great gift; the knowledge that people are good and willing to help.

So please, be nice to my kids at not only the playground, but at the grocery store, doctors office and library. They aren’t little for long, and this is our chance to show them compassion.

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48 Replies to “Please Help My Kids on the Playground”

      • I liked the original. I’m not suggesting you fail to assist my child IF ASKED, just don’t assume they’re incapable and interrupt their problem solving by overriding their autonomy with your concerned bystander act.

        • Liz,

          I recommend re-reading the original, because that is exactly what it suggested. It says ver specifically that if asked, not to help. That’s the very problem with the piece. It is extremely unkind to children and gives them a terrible view if the world.

          My piece above also specifically says to help my children when they ask.

          The original article is mean and childist and us exactly why our society is so detached today.

  1. I’ve the read article that I’m sure this one is in response to. Having said that, I’m not in agreement. It is not the world’s job to teach my children compassion, or kindness. The model of behavior that I want them to mimic is mine, not what is around them in the world. Because for every 1 person that may show them kindness in their brief small moment of need, there is 100 people who won’t even look their direction. As sad as that may be, that is the reality of the world. Leave my children alone because a) I have no idea who you are and I don’t want you touching my child and b) they do need to learn to do things for themselves and when no danger is near, someplace like the playground is a great place for them to learn those amazing little skills. Furthermore, I cannot teach my children to have a healthy fear of strangers if I’m allowing them to ask strangers for help. If there is a genuine need for help, that’s my job.

    In reference to your statement of “I will be grateful that for the moment I have a village.” I would counter that a village is a community of people who know each other. This is vastly different than allowing and wanting strangers to be in contact with your children. My village is not the world. My village is my family, my friends, and the people in my life that support me and the parent that I am. My village is not you, the stranger.

    • Indeed different folks make the world go ’round.

      My view on life is far less cynical and more connected. We do not teach stranger danger, and my kids have ample time to learn the skills that they want to. In an age loaded with anxiety and fear, I want to give my children the gift of trusting the world, because out of the 100 you say won’t notice them, most (or all) of them are good.

      To me it is unkind to think that we should not help children. If I was stuck somewhere and was afraid, I sure as heck hope someone would help me. And this much is certain; they would. Why are we so much less kind to children?

      • Do not misunderstand me — I am not unkind to children. If I’m on the playground, for example, and a child is clearly fearful, worried, scared, I will help. And I would appreciate a stranger helping while I’m working my way to my child(ren).

        The article that you’re responding to, and now know you did not read in it’s entirety, was not making the point of not having anyone help in the type of situation that you are proposing. She said, very clearly, that she didn’t help her children when she knew they could something. The example was that her daughter wanted help to climb a ladder she has climbed before. She chose not help her to remind and reinforce that she has done it before, she can do it again. That style of parenting is one that I line with, in this particular situation.

        As far as trusting the world, I have to say that I stand right in the middle. I believe that people earn trust and therefore, a general trust in the abstract “world” would never be something that I teach. My children are 7 years and 4 months (twins). Trust is a MAJOR lesson in our house right now and there is no way I can teach her that trust is just given. I feel very strongly that it’s not. For this reason, it’s not necessary “stranger danger” that I teach, but to understand what trust is and who does/does not have it in your life.

        • Katy,

          In the interest of understanding, may I ask: if a child asks you for help, would you help them? Because that is a clear line from the piece you are describing. The author specifically asks that you not.

        • Separately, I wonder if you could clarify what you mean by trust being a “MAJOR” issue in your house right now? I am not clear on that given the ages of your children.

          • You ask: “if a child asks you for help, would you help them?”

            My generic answer is yes. But let’s use the ladder as an example. I would ask questions. “Can you do it on your own?” and/or “Are you worried?” And then follow it up with encouragement. “You can do it, I know you can. Here, let me stand behind you while you try.” Meanwhile I’d look around for the parent and a nod of approval from the parent.

            If someone had that much interaction with my child I’d be headed towards them. I wouldn’t be upset by any means but I’d feel the need to be by my child’s side. Once there, I’d introduce myself and thank them for their help.

            In the article, I never got the feeling that she would continue to ask that you not help her children if there was a present fear, worry, or danger. If she stated something to that effect, it has escaped my mind at this point (I read the article yesterday). But what I took from it is, if her child is on the ladder and just wants help — leave said child alone because they are capable and she wants to remind them of their own skills and talents. That is absolutely a philosophy that I can back — and what I’m backing in response to your article.

            As far as the “major” issue in my house right now: My daughter, 7 years old, has taken to lying about very small things. I’m unsure of her motive for doing this and we talk about it a lot. One of the things I’m teaching her, along with not lying, is that lying breaks trust. When she lies to me, I don’t know how to trust her. Likewise, I ask her how could she trust me to do what I say I’m going to do, if I tell her we’ll do something and don’t do it. Over the last few weeks, I’d say about 50% of our “heart to heart” conversations are about lying and trust – what they mean both together and independently.

          • Katy,

            I am learning that it is not only unfair to doubt my children’s words, but it does not build their self confidence or their autonomy. If they say “I need help” and my return message is “no you don’t. You only think you need help. I am your mother and I know better what you need”, what am I teaching my children?

          • I would also ask: which is the more important lesson- that my child can trust himself, or that he learns to climb the ladder independently on that specific day?

            He will learn to climb the ladder. If he is afraid of heights, or lacks confidence, or thinks he will slip, mustn’t I help him to build his confidence and trust in himself so that he is confident enough not just to climb the ladder, but to do all of the other things the author of the original posts claimed would only come from not helping him?

            I know I am proving a point here, and it was not my intention to use your comment to do it. I hope that you are comfortable with this conversation. I also hope you appreciate that I am using this conversation to work through things that I am trying to understand more deeply.

  2. Okay, I just had to go Google the “don’t help my kids” post, because I knew I had seen it come through my newsfeed recently, but I wanted to re-read it. While the tone does kind of rub me the wrong way a bit, I can’t say I completely disagree with it.

    We were just at the park yesterday, so two examples:

    1. The girls can easily climb the “big” ladder to the slide; A cannot. He takes the long way around, up the stairs and through the tube. They all still can make it to the big slide and go down it. I don’t *want* to just pick A up and put him to the top of the ladder; my thought is if he can’t do it on his own it’s something he’s not ready for. He *will* get it and he will be able to do it on his own probably in a matter of weeks. And that’s fine with me. I would not want another parent to put him at the top of the ladder, because I wouldn’t do it for him, either.

    2. I *am* grateful for other moms at the park who watch out for my kids. While I was getting a water out for J, A got a bit too close to one of the openings and lost his balance. Another mom happened to be standing right there and helped him; he would have fallen about 4 feet onto soft mulch, probably not enough to cause too much damage, but he’s only 2. Let’s just say I was really happy she was right there when I was distracted for just a moment. (That’s all it takes right?)

    So, I guess I’m torn. I mean, I agree with what you’ve written here about being kind and helping strangers and trusting those around us. And what you wrote pretty much describes us at the park. But I really don’t think that is what the other article was getting at. I didn’t get the overall message of *not* being nice to kids at all.

    • The overall message of the piece you are talking about was one of little support for our children. The idea that children should figure everything out on their own is disheartening for me. And, it’s not the way the world works. I started a blog. I had no idea what I was doing. People helped me; on YouTube, on Facebook and in real life. I had support. If I did not know how to write a piece of code, I asked for help and I got it. This is one tiny example.

      I do think it is unkind not to support our children. When we know our children well, we understand what sort of support they are asking for. If Owen was standing at the top of a scary ladder and asked someone for help and they replied “no, your mom told me not to”, what is the message? In my ideal world, someone would say “I hear that you want help. Do you want me to help you climb down, or keep my hand here as you climb up in case you fall?”

      That is not the saddest part of this piece though. For me, the saddest part of this piece is suggesting that children ask for help to manipulate others into doing their hard work. As you well know, this is an atrocious and dangerous mentality that we have of children from the time they are hours old.

      Asking for help to accomplish a new achievement is not a sign of weakness in my opinion, it is resourceful. I suspect that anyone you ask who has accomplished something in their life will tell you of someone who gave them support.

  3. I can no longer reply on my original comment to keep this conversation going. Alas, a new comment. 😉

    I do not believe that questioning your child in a positive manner when they ask for help is doubting their words. When my daughter asks for help, I begin a conversation. “What do you need help with?” “What’s going wrong?” “What do you think the best solution is?” “What can I do to help you?” “Can I show you how to do that?”

    When we start a line of conversation when a child asks for help, we encourage them to express what’s happening and get their entire perspective on a situation. I have found this to be even more true as my child ages. There certainly has not been a moment she has asked for help where I didn’t show her what to do. Because those moments are teaching moments. When she asks for help with something she has done before, I like to remind her of that. “You did that before, do you remember how?” and instead of just doing something for her I’ll say something like “I remember how you did it, let’s work together to do it again.”

    This concept, for me, runs along the lines of that old saying — “Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” By providing support to her and encouraging her to do it herself, I am giving her the confidence to believe in herself. I’m showing her my trust in her to do what I know she’s capable of. And more times than not, I’m teaching her patience to repeat skills I know she already has. All those things are what parenting is about. I strongly feel that to just do something for her when she asks for help is doing her a disservice; the consequences of which could potentially last a lifetime.

    Then, we have the other factor to consider. Each child is different. I know that what I have stated as practice with my child is useful, and practical. I know how she feels when I ask such questions of her and encourage her. This method works… for her. Will it work for yours? Only you know that, they are your children. Because of this factor alone, what works for me and my child(ren) may simply not be practical for you or your children.

    Having said this, I believe that I have demonstrated that it does not boil down to “which is the more important lesson- that my child can trust himself, or that he learns to climb the ladder independently on that specific day?” The answer, is both. You can teach him to trust himself with your guidance, and support (both of which are an answer to “help”) AND how to climb the ladder. If nothing else, one single step is progress on that ladder — and a boost the rest of the way is the perfect solution to easing a fear or concern.

    As far as proving a point with my comments, I do not mind at all. I always up for a good, friendly conversation with someone who has an opposing view.

    • I’m glad Katy 🙂

      Surely you see the difference between what you are describing (being close enough to talk to your child and offer them support) and this: “I am not sitting here, 15 whole feet away from my kids, because I am too lazy to get up. I am sitting here because I didn’t bring them to the park so they could learn how to manipulate others into doing the hard work for them. I brought them here so they could learn to do it themselves.”


  4. It seems all the little kids at the park want my help when we go! A push or a boost, or whatever. I usually give it and chat with them a little, but at the same time I am always so afraid that their parent is going to come over and wonder why I am interacting with their kid -based in the attitude of that recent post I am sure you saw that was all snarky about someone helping her kids at the playground. I mean I understand bounadries, and I do understand a bit where she was coming from, but c’mon people! Let’s all give each other a little more help and care (and benefit of the doubt for goodness sake). If for nothing else than to build relationships and -dare I say it- community!

    • Jacquelyn,

      You touch on another very important message being delivered by the piece you mention; stay away from my kids. There are so many things about that idea that are disheartening and encourage us all to distance ourselves from each other.

  5. And of course there is such a thing as crossing the line. I was at a little friends Birthday party once with my baby who was 9 mos and my older girl. All the babies were playing on a big picnic blanket. I was probably standing 4 feet away from my nine month old and had just given her something, I can’t remember what, a piece of cracker or something. Well the little boy’s Grandma spots her and starts shouting, “She’s got something in her mouth!” Literally dives across the blanket, plunges her fingers into my baby’s mouth and starts digging around. This is a woman I have never met before. Of course my baby was TERRIFIED and inconsolable after that. I’m like, “Uh I just gave her something and I’m standing RIGHT HERE.” I was kind of furious. You couldn’t have said “Um, excuse me, It looks like your daughter has something in her mouth.” Hello.

    But anyway, as far as general help/attention/kindness towards kids at the playground or wherever, I have to totally agree with you 🙂 It’s nice to be nice.

  6. In my experience when children know how to do somethihng, they don’t ask for help but rather demand that you not help them. So if a child is asking for help, regardless of whether or not they know how to do the thing in question, we should help them . People don’t ask for help for no reason. Maybe he’s just looking for someone to play with him? I’ve been to plenty of of full playgrounds and seen at least 1 kid playing by himself for whatever reason. Mayybe he’s had a tough morning and need a little emotional support? And you helping him up that ladder might just be the boost he needed. Maybe they’re asking you for help because everytime they ask their mom she dosnt help them. I see no reason to question a childs motives when they’re asking for help. It may have nothing to do with being scared or being physicly unable to do it. It may be something else entirely. Don’t question them. Help them. Because if they’re asking that’s clearly what they need in that moment.

    • That’s so true! My kids have no problem letting me know when they DON’T need or want any help. I think it’s great to let kids figure things out in their own way and at their own pace, but it’s really important too to be there for them when they are struggling and in need of our help or support. Some skills are learned through independent play and some are learned on our laps as we teach them or at the park as we show them.

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  8. Do you think the mom not helping and not wanting others to help is doing something other than texting or surfing the web on her phone??? I doubt it. At least jen is still letting her children get the help they need when she needs a break and I guarentee you she is still paying very close attention to her kids

  9. You’re missing the main point of the “Please Don’t Help My Kids” essay. It’s not “one of little support for our children”. Just the opposite. It suggests that perhaps the best way we can support our children is to back away and let them learn to solve challenges on their own.

    You ask, “If a child asks you for help, would you help them?” The thing is, too often “help” is offered (imposed, really) even when kids *aren’t asking for it. And if our tendency is to over-help, it stifles autonomy.

    I think it comes down to what is meant by the word “help”, and the difference is more than just semantics. The question is, “Help with what – What does it mean to ‘help’ a child?” Contrary to what Liz writes above – “If they’re asking that’s clearly what they need in that moment” – I would say the responsible approach when a child asks for help – with anything – is not to immediately jump in and do what they’re asking (and I believe this is where the other author gets the “manipulate others” concept from), but to ask ourselves, “1 – Is this something they ought to accomplish (Is it safe? Do they need it?); 2 – What does ‘help’ mean from their perspective – i.e., what are they really asking for? 3 – Is what they’re requesting of me really the best way I can help, or is there a more indirect action I could take that would achieve the same result but be more-of-them and less-of-me?” [And you might include “4 – Am I able and willing at the moment to comply?” We don’t have to drop everything every time a child asks. They can learn to wait, or they’ll figure out another way to do it.]

    “The idea that children should figure everything out on their own is disheartening for me.” But it’s not about us. It’s about what kids need. And they simply don’t need to be hand-held through every challenge. You are right that kids need to learn to trust the world. Erik Erickson cited that as the first of his psychosocial development stages: Basic Trust vs. Mistrust. However, he held that this stage was largely navigated in the first year of life and mostly depended on a baby’s relationship with its mother. But resolving the next three stages successfully (during ages 2-11) all hinge on developing competencies – “I can do it myself.” So developing a high sense of personal efficacy (by mastering tasks) and trusting others aren’t mutually exclusive.

    I just don’t think kids asking for help and adults immediately indulging them develops what you think it does – the ability to trust others. That’s more a product of the regular relationships we have with those who are well-known to us (and which lay the groundwork for us to develop intimate relationships as adults – or not). Yes, when a stranger gives a child a push on the swing it may communicate that strangers aren’t necessarily creepy or scary and that we don’t need to live in fear, but the point of the original article was not, “Stay away from my kids because I want them to be afraid of strangers.” It was, “Don’t be so quick to ‘help’; it short-circuits my own child’s growth.”

    And as for asking for others’ help to achieve things, we’re not talking here about building companies or developing new products or other adult-like activities that require teamwork; we’re talking about basic competencies. Apples and oranges. Why should we want to do for kids the things they can do for themselves?

    • No, actually, the point of this article was to say “no” if a child of this particular mother asks for help. If we are asked for help by this child we are to say “tough luck kid. Figure it out”. This article was extremely clear- the child does not know when he or she needs help.. we know him or her better, and we should teach him or her not to trust themselves.

    • Erik Ericson actually suggests that as well as the trust developed from the support of a child’s primary caregivers, young children hope to get support from strangers as well. Failure to do so ends in fear and mistrust.

      “For example, if the care has been harsh or inconsistent, unpredictable and unreliable then the infant will develop a sense of mistrust and will not have confidence in the world around them or in their abilities to influence events.

      This infant will carry the basic sense of mistrust with them to other relationships. It may result in anxiety, heightened insecurities, and an over feeling of mistrust in the world around them.” Erik Erikson (1950, 1963)

    • Trust vs mistrust (0-1.5 years) “Success in this stage will lead to the virtue of hope. By developing a sense of trust, the infant can have hope that as new crises arise, there is a real possibility that other people will be there are a source of support. Failing to acquire the virtue of hope will lead to the development of fear.”
      Erik Erikson (1950, 1963)

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  13. Well said. I think the part that horrified me most about the opposing article was this…

    “It is not my job — and it is certainly not yours — to prevent my children from feeling frustration, fear, or discomfort. If I do, I have robbed them of the opportunity to learn that those things are not the end of the world, and can be overcome or used to their advantage.”

    I believe that fear and discomfort should NEVER EVER be a part of learning. Since when did we become so cold and hard faced? It’s such a shame. What happened to nurturing. Yes kids learn lots on their own, but they learn loads more skills (kindness, in this example) from their parents and friendly ‘strangers’ in parks.

  14. Just because she doesn’t help doesn’t mean she isn’t watching like a hawk…which most of you are assuming. I believe in letting my children do figure it out on their own. If they can’t do it on their own yet…then they shouldn’t do it until they are not only capable but ready. I am watching like a hawk. I will take care of my child when they need it. But that is for me to decide as their parent. Not a complete stranger who does not know them nor their capabilities. Will I ask very nicely for someone to leave my children be if they interfere? Absolutely. I tell my children not to talk/interact with strangers, why would I even begin to tell or show them that it’s okay as long as it’s on the playground? If my children get bumps and need comfort they know I’m there. If they fall will I rush to them? Not unless my kiddo is severely injured. If they need comfort…they will let me know. Neither style will turn your children into serial killers, so why not just do you own way with your own kids and leave other people’s beliefs alone? Oh and before you comment…I do get very upset with parents who basically abandon to the playgrounds. They almost always are the little monsters of the group. If the child is being a monster then I will become Mommy and make them behave. Why? Because that’s when their behavior is effecting my children.

  15. I must add, I find the texting part of this article a real shame.

    Of course kids need to learn things on their own, that’s a given. If you think a child that can’t teach himself something shouldn’t be taught/helped by his parents because he obviously isn’t ready, then why bother sending them to school? There’s got to be a middle ground some where. Of course we all do parenting our own way, but when people’s beliefs are published on the internet, they’re obviously going to be commented up on.

    I think the problem with the original article is how hard-faced and cold she comes across and people are dissecting it based on that. The fact that she thinks fear and discomfort are part of learning is really quite worrying. The fact that she clearly gets annoyed with strangers because they are apparently hindering her child’s learning is really quite sad. She doesn’t mention the issue of talking to strangers in the article, so I’m not sure why that keeps getting mentioned. However, let me recommend the thoughts of Gavin De Becker. I’ve copy and pasted this rather than re-iterating:

    “He makes an excellent case for how and why to teach your kid TO TALK TO STRANGERS. He makes it clear that if your children ever find themselves lost or in a dangerous situation, the best tool they have to be reunited with you will be their ability to ask for help from… total strangers! Think about it, if your child is separated from you in a mall, are they safer standing somewhere looking afraid, unable to ask for help, waiting for a police officer (next time you’re in a mall, stop and stand in place and see how long it takes for a police officer to walk by) or confidently finding a “safe” (most are) stranger to ask for help? If your child is walking home from school and notices someone following him, is he safer continuing to walk home (even if he’s blocks away) or stopping at the nearest house (probably a stranger) and asking for help? Sometimes a stranger will be your child’s best ally in an emergency. It isn’t so much that we need to teach children not to talk to strangers but how to identify dangerous situations and find appropriate help. This is a difficult and complex task, but it can be done and children will be much safer in the long run for it. De Becker gives excellent suggestions for how to do it. Once again, keep in mind that nearly ALL child abductions and molestation happen at the hands of trusted friends and relatives. We should change the focus from teaching our children “don’t talk to strangers” to “being safe.” I believe that being so simplistic with a message like “don’t talk to strangers” gives parents and children a false sense of security and could even put children at more risk if they ever find themselves lost or in real danger.”

  16. Ok jumping on the bandwagon here. As someone who has had a child almost taken from her at a playground by another mom that seemed “kind”, I am extremely cynical towards anyone that wants to interact with my children. If I see someone even start to talk to my children I’m next to my kids like white on rice. On that same note, I allow my children to try something over and over again until they feel like they need to come to me to ask for help. They know better than to ask people they don’t know and they also know to turn down help from people they don’t know because quite frankly we do live in that kind of world and to think otherwise is quite foolish.
    I’ve seen the village and I don’t want it’s help raising my children. I will choose the village I want around helping me raise them and if someone isn’t a part of that community, I’m not letting them close.

    • I can understand how your experience would make you feel weary of strangers. It’s not foolish to let your children talk to strangers (see my comment above) however, it is foolish to leave them alone with strangers and not eduate them about the benefits of talking to strangers if they’re in trouble.

  17. I love love love this. We are pack animals, we don’t live solo. Nothing has ever been achieved by anyone without some kind of help from others. I read the opposing article with sadness. It intellectualised and made an excuse for being selfish and mean. If a little girl with a little smile should look up at me and ask for a push on the swing, I would give it a million times over.

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